Editor's Desk: When new MDS starts, ignorance won't be bliss

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James M. Berklan, Editor
James M. Berklan, Editor

It's said if you really want to learn something, teach it. Let's hope that's true.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced it will be conducting another “Train the Trainer” conference  regarding MDS 3.0. It would be a good time for the “teachers” to hone their craft and learn from earlier mistakes.

To its credit, CMS asked for feedback about its two earlier MDS 3.0 training conferences. The first was for state officials, while the second was for provider and consultant types.

The Minimum Data Set (MDS), of course, is the resident assessment tool that drives care planning and reimbursement. The looming Oct. 1 switchover from MDS 2.0 to MDS 3.0 brings dramatic changes.

And that's what made the initial round of “teaching” disappointing. Various attendees left the second conference either overwhelmed by the laborious, unimaginative read-through of the new form, or disappointed in the answers they never got.

Training attendees essentially  were told there is no training standard and that they should simply do the best they can. No wonder no certificates of attendance were given.

But if regulators have left a lot to be desired, there's another group that needs to step up to the plate even more: facility administrators.

Many just aren't “getting it” yet. MDS 3.0 is not some seatbelt law that will be winked at while everyone takes time to get used to it.

As CMS officials have said: If you don't code the MDS 3.0 right, you won't get paid. Period. Some veteran observers have calculated that certain providers could lose 60% to 70% of some payments, and that's assuming they code the forms correctly.

So, admins, here's some well-intended advice:

Realize this is a new set-up. We're talking operational change, not merely installing the newest version of Windows on your computers.  Check with your software provider immediately to learn whether it will be up to snuff for MDS 3.0, or if it even plans to try.

Make sure you'll have both the software AND hardware to get the job done. Needs will change. Also, line up training slots to make sure staff are trained in time to use this new assessment tool. There are new skills to develop.

Efficiency is going to be critical, and it has to start now.

Let's hope providers—and regulators—get educated. The sooner, the better.